In which Yie Ar Kung Fu is referenced.
I'm not sure you can review Yellow & Yangtze without at least mentioning Tigris & Euphrates, so I'm not even going to attempt it. Both are designed by Reiner Knizia , both center around twin rivers and they share a majority of concepts and mechanisms. I am by no means aTigris & Euphrates aficionado: I'm more of a peripheral player. I thoroughly enjoyed all of my plays, I adored the strategy but I had to be honest with myself, it was always going to be a game that I played another person's copy of. I was simply never going to get it to the table with my core group on a consistent basis.
No need to ramble on about it, everything I want to say is in the review here at Gameshark.com.
I knew of David Sirlin from his presence in the Street Fighter scene long before he started making board games. He used to post on alt.games.sf2, where I lurked back in the day and occasionally cracked wise. He was mildly famous for winning a few good-sized tournaments back in the 90s, and he's still pretty good, although not a top contender. My involvement in the scene was never that active, but I usually keep an eye on it for nostalgia's sake. When I heard he was moving into the analog design space I was quite intrigued -- and now, after a couple of warm-ups, he's finally released his main design, Yomi. Yomi is a fixed-deck, non-customizable card game that is designed to replicate the mental side of video fighting games like Street Fighter, Virtua Fighter, and so on. But how can a card game replicate this? Well....
Today's review is more of a precautionary tale, a sort of How Not To Kickstarter. Unfortunately, given the number of people who are willing to throw money at anything that passes by like a rich kid in a titty bar, this precautionary tale is likely to send the wrong message, because this one is probably going to reach its goal and thereby bring into existence yet another crappy game.
If we were to classify games like boxers, based on weight, I think that Intrigue might win the award for the most conniving game in its class. It forces the player to make endless promises to get ahead, and then it makes you break at least some of those promises, trampling on the needs and desires of your fellow players. My friends and I have joked that you lose a little bit of your soul every time you play, and there are moments when I’ve felt genuinely guilty for what the game is requiring of me. I would only ever play it with people who were willing to leave all grudges at the game table, and even then I might be more selective than usual.
The tagline from Alien told us that in space no one can hear you scream. Ascending Empires tells us that screaming isn't the only thing that no one will hear: In space no one will hear you when you try to explain that the spaceship you just flicked into their orbit got there purely by accident. You had no intention on going anywhere near them, and that you didn't mean to hit that planet that ricocheted your ship right into the heart of their sector of space. Yes, Ascending Empires has reminded me of this cruel fact over and over again, and that any such "accident" will be treated as nothing short of an act of all-out war.
RPGs are great fun. I honestly think that some of the funniest nights of my life have been with my friends, playing an RPG. They don’t deserve the label they have as a dorky past-time, consisting of various Asperger’s sufferers hiding in Mum’s basement pushing a lead dragon around. As I’ve said many times, I don’t understand how an activity that requires social interaction can be called sad, when sitting at home playing on your X-Box isn’t.
I’m not a game designer, so I’m not really sure what it takes to create a successful board game adaptation of a video game. Do you just take the license and use it as a setting for a solid design? That’s what was done with Railroad Tycoon and Age of Empires III, both by Glenn Drover. Do you work to create a system that emulates the feel of a video game without recreating specific mechanisms? FFG’s Starcraft board game did this to great effect, creating a game that felt like Starcraft even while it never really replicated the mechanical nuances. Or you could do what The Battle At Kemble’s Cascade does, and work hard to recreate the mechanics of the video game in a cardboard form.
When you open a modern board game, you don't expect to find what looks like a Parcheesi board. You especially don't expect to find it set in the midst of lush Mesopotamian jungle or to be decorated with bizarre sigils. Then you flip through the lavishly illustrated rules, picking out phrases like "blood mist" and "cannibalism". We're not in Kansas any more. I'm not sure quite where we are, but I don't think it's a place I'd want to go on holiday.
Portal published a zombie game. Huh, who knew?
Like any horror franchise worth its salt, Zombicide is back with another installment. Just like most horror sequels this one has a twist! Wizards and Warriors are the new flavor du jour. Chainsaws have become broadswords and uzis are now crossbows. So besides a stylistic face-lift does this new version improve upon the game in any meaningful way?
Pictured is the best zombie you will ever see in a movie, or in any other media for that matter. Note that it is not cute, funny, and it is not wearing a chef hat or other article to signify to the viewer what he was before the zombie apocalpyse. No. It is a maggot-eyed, decayed, rotten, and grim visage that represents everything the living dead should. But I digress.
By now, I think we can all agree that the zombie game phenomenon is getting a little old. Every third game seems to be about either killing the undead, running from the undead, or becoming the undead so you can eat other people. It's an epidemic, and I'm pretty sure people are going to start getting tired of it very soon.
Apparently, Russia did not get the memo.
Russian Boardgames, a company whose name is only half-way accurate, has been responsible for some really cool card games. They made Potion-Making Practice, which I think is awesome, and a bunch of other stuff. And now they've translated another game into English, which is about zombies and thus, in the tradition of finding the most obvious name possible, they call it Zombies.
Zombies, like every other game I've seen from Russian Boardgames, is a card game. It's incredibly straightforward, to the point that explaining the rules will usually take about 45 seconds, unless you are smoking pot, in which case you will forget what you were saying and decide to watch cartoons and eat a huge bowl of cereal. On your turn, you either play a zombie on someone else, or play a weapon on yourself. If you can amass five different weapons, you win. If you wind up with five zombies, you lose and then just randomly attack people with whatever you've got handy.
The tricky part is that every different zombie card is cancelled by a particular weapon card. The rocket launcher kills the zombie bus, the baseball bat can swat away the headless zombie's, and the mouse will scare the zombie cheerleader (which, in this case, makes sense, because that mouse would build a nest in her ribcage and eat her decaying lungs until she could no longer yell, 'gimme a HURRRRR...'). So getting five zombies on an opponent is hard, because they can play weapons to cancel them, and getting five weapons is tricky because you keep losing them defending yourself against zombies.
This seems like not much of a game. Actually, my phrasing is a little off - this actually is not much of a game. You'll play the whole thing in like fifteen minutes, and most of that time will be spent talking trash and not really thinking about what you're doing. I know what you're thinking - this doesn't sound like much fun.
But it turns out, it's kind of a hoot. The game itself is not much of a game, to be honest, but the fun part is the game that's happening outside the game. It's the part where you're trying to convince the other guy to put a zombie on your opponent so that you can slap down your fifth weapon, or the part where you're taking petty bribes to play your zombies on other people. The game itself isn't much of a game, really, but all the silliness that's happening outside the card play makes it far more entertaining than it has any right to be.
I'm not going to pee on your leg and tell you it's raining. Actually, I'm not going to pee on you at all. If you want a hard-thinking game with some thematic support and an intelligent set of rules, Zombies is not that game. This is strictly a game you break out when everyone has had a couple beers and you're waiting for the guys at the other table to finish up their Puerto Rico snooze-fest so you can all set up a bad-ass game of The Resistance. It's the very definition of a filler game, but it comes with some goofiness that you won't see in the rules.
Of course, if you're playing with really thinky people who are going to try to find some strategy in the game, Zombies is going to be wildly mediocre. The best thing about it will be how short it is. Like many games, the quality you find in Zombies depends entirely on your audience. In that way, it is a lot like shooting cheap porn. A discerning audience will be disappointed; a room full of half-drunk jackasses will laugh more than is strictly necessary.
As a bit of an aside, I wish that the illustrator for Zombies was an American, because the art in this game is fantastic, and I would like to hire him to draw a webcomic about weasels with irritable bowel syndrome. I don't think there's a lot of game in this game, but the art makes it worth owning just for the pictures on the cards.
So, the Russians are either late jumping on the zombie bandwagon, or they haven't realized how soon it's going to be before that particular bubble bursts. But it hardly matters, because the only way this is a zombie game is because there are dead people on the cards. This is a game about getting buzzed on imported beer and yelling at people while you wait to set up a game of Risk that will last until one of you gets fed up and flips the table. It's not a serious game, and it doesn't mean to be serious. Enjoy it for what it is - fifteen minutes of talking crap followed by doing something completely different.
A quirky little game happens outside the game
Really fun art may actually make you laugh out loud
Not a whole hell of a lot of game here
I wish I could tell you where you could buy Zombies (the game, not the dead people), but the publisher is in Russia. Here's a link to the website, though: http://www.russianboardgames.com/zombie.html
Matt Drake is a regular contributer to Fortress: Ameritrash and the author of the Drake's Flames blog, where you can read more of his crassly opinionated reviews.
When Zombology came out of the packet, I thought it might have taken a knock in the post. There's no shrinkwrap, the box lid is a poor fit and all the cards spill everywhere when you take it off. Then I realised: when the designer told me this was "hand made", he meant it literally. He cut and assembled every component by hand, and that makes it an instant treasure.
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